DC Finally Resolves the Meridian Hill vs Malcolm X Park Debate

by Prince Of Petworth — September 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm 42 Comments

Perhaps because I’m a bit masochistic I’ve always enjoyed reading people’s opinions on whether or not the park is called Malcolm X or Meridian Hill. Basically the national park service calls it Meridian Hill (which is the technical official name because NPS owns the land) but long time residents as well as the city have generally referred to it as Malcolm X park. The debate has gotten rather contentious and heated at times. As a result I have always referred to it as the Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park. I nearly fell over when I saw the above city sign city sign on U St, NW. At long last, a compromise!

By the by the park (between 15th and 16th St, NW and Euclid and W/Florida Ave) is looking beautiful. Fountains stay on until mid-Nov.

  • ah

    Wait, is the compromise that they’ll call it Malcolm “-X” Park, which isn’t quite is name?

    And that they’ll use a font that is fairly obviously different, and tilt it at an angle? Talk about sloppy signage.

    • HardlyWorking


      Almost makes me wonder if it’s somehow rogue…also strange is that the “Park” part matches. Why were they able to get that right, and in the right place for a two-line name, and not the name itself?

      This sign has been up for a while and I’ve pondered this on several occasions…

  • victoria

    I’m just so happy for the rain because it was smelling extra pissy lately.

  • s

    Did it occur to anyone that maybe the DC gov’t wasn’t behind the creative sign correction?

    • ah

      Well, it does have a certain WMATA je ne sais quoi.

  • Kustie the Klown

    Nothing says “prosperity” quite as eloquently as having things in your neighborhood named after Malcolm X.

  • picky grammarian

    What’s with the hyphen?

  • DC20010

    If they really wanted controversy they’d rename it El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz-Al-Sabann Park.

  • So do anyone have info on how the Malcom X designation came about?

    • Anonymous

      he gave a speech there once.

      • Anonymous

        kind of like the Lincoln Memorial MLK Beck park down on the mall.

      • When? Give me a reference to read up on it, I am interested. For close to 30 years this park has been called by both names, as far back as I can remember.

        1 speech does not change a park name – even for locals.

        There must be something more to it.

        Any WDC history buffs out there?

    • saf

      Sign #2 on the Adams Morgan Heritage Trail has a brief version of the story – Angela Davis re-named it, and some people started using it. NPS doesn’t re-name things though, so it was not officially re-named.

      • DC20010

        Who is Angela Davis and why does she get to go around renaming our national parks?

        • alexbaca

          Angela Davis is an African-American, feminist activist whose area of focus is the industrial-prison complex. She now teaches at Berkeley, but was involved in the Black Panthers (for awhile, she was associated with a murder scandal—guns that she owned were used in a murder in Los Angeles, I believe). Militant activism aside, she’s written some excellent cultural theories/histories. One of my favorites is “Blues Legacy, Black Feminism” (about Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey). She’s also heavily referenced in “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” (another great book! It’s about the history of hip-hop).

          I took a tour of Meridian Hill Park this summer and our guide from Washington Parks & People, who was involved in the park’s initial cleanup in the early 90s, did in fact say that Davis gave a speech at Meridian Hill in the 1970s and deemed it Malcolm X Park. That’s where the name came from. I don’t know why Davis made such a declaration, but she’d been a strong advocate for black power at that point, so one could speculate.

          Also, someone commented further down that white people should take some time to learn about non-dominant/non-white history, but I’d like to point out that I didn’t learn about Angela Davis until I took a critical and literary theory-based cultural studies class (NOT a history class). She’s usually brought up in relation to theory, not history.

          • DC20010


          • saf

            Well, when I was in history classes, she was still current events, not history!

          • alexbaca

            @saf, yeah, I’ve always talked about/read her in contemporary cultural studies classes, not history classes. I was just trying to make the point that she’s not exactly a historical figure (yet?).

      • More please… why did she “re-name” that park? Why not Rock Creek or the Mall for that matter?

        • Disgusted in DC

          The fact that Angela Davis was behind the “name change” is yet another reason why it *shouldn’t* be named Malcolm X Park.

        • saf

          Want to say it was right after he was shot and she was speaking there, but right now I am not in the office with my DC history references.

  • How about “Malcolm X Park on Meridian Hill”?

    And what DOES malcolm minus x equal?

  • Whatajoke

    I think we should call Grant Circle “Telly Salvalas Circle” from now on. Given the criteria established here that a few people can just call shit whatever the fuck they want I feel justified.

    Who loves ya, baby?

  • PG
  • Cora

    I sincerely hope the commenters do not live in the neighborhood. Google “Angela Davis” please. Learn some people’s history and not just the history of white men with money. It really doesn’t matter what folks like you like about it. It’s a part of the culture here and you need to allow something other than your own biases to rule.

    • Oh there you go… it was almost an intelligent stream until you had to go there Cora.

      Just because white folks don’t know who she is, that don’t make’em haters, ignorant to history. I myself knew of her but still don’t know why that park was renamed.

      Watch out now or they will change the name again to Gingrich Hill or Palin Place – just made myself vomit a little.

      Teach them, don’t scold them.

    • DC20010

      Seems like a few of us are actually trying to learn about that history – but no one seems to be able to answer why it is unofficially named after Malcolm X. Why this park? Why did Angela Davis get to rename it?

      Does anyone actually know anymore?

    • Anonymous

      Lots of white people know who BOTH Angela Davis’s are. There is another important one right here in town, BTW. She used to run the defender service and has done more for poor and disenfranchised folk in DC than some pie-in-the-sky revolutionary relic from the 1960’s, IMHO.

      • Kustie the Klown

        I know the OTHER Angela Davis. She was my criminal law professor at AU Law. Her class was the single, easiest grade of my entire educational career. I never attended a single class (or bought the textbook, for that matter), and did no studying whatsoever for the final. I made an A in the class. Good times!

  • Robert Oriole

    FYI… The sign pictured has been up for 2+ years (I used to live on the block). I can almost remember an identical PoP post on the topic.

  • LAR

    I’ll preface by saying that I don’t know if this is true, but it was explained to me by a 30-year DC resident that the south end (with the stairs, pond, and waterfall fountain) was the Malcolm X part of the park, and the vast expanse at the north end (the one actually at the top of the hill) was the Meridian Hill part of it.

    • saf

      Not true – the whole things is both, for different people.

  • Mistr Knucklz

    Whem my great grandfather who was in the Pennsylvania Regiment came through this area during the Civil War he camped at Meridian Hill and it is really insulting that a handful of militant black people somehow decided that they would name this beautiful park after malcolm fucking x who was a hateful bigot who believed that killing white people was just fine and now we have to look at it on signs and fund it with our tax dollars because the park service is a bunch of chicken shits who are afraid of being called racist and its no different than the rightwing congressional assholes who renamed national airport after dickhead ronald reagan

    • Kustie the Klown

      Well it’s always good to keep things in proper perspective.

  • StubsDC

    I was waiting for the National Airport thing. Nothing offended me more as a DC resident than a bunch of GOP out of towners renamed my airport overnight one night after a man who is really the root of all our problems in the Middle East. Why couldn’t we get a say in that?

  • Anonymous

    It’s been Meridian Hill since it was built. It was built 100 years ago.

    Was Reagan National Airport always called that? To me it’ll always be National


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